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Classical musicians and hearing loss

When you think about loud music that can damage your hearing, many people's minds may go straight to rock n' roll concerts, where screaming musicians, powerful percussion and shredding electric guitar solos leave many attendees with ringing ears for days to come. 

However, it's not just rock musicians and their fans who should consider protecting their hearing – classical musicians are also at risk of hearing loss due to their profession. 

Here's what you should know if you are a classical musician. 

Classical music at full blast 

This insight comes from an audiologist from the Baylor College of Medicine, who notes that classical musicians can be at risk from overexposure to loud volumes within an orchestra or brass band, resulting in noise-related hearing loss or tinnitus, an internal ringing sound in the ears1

"We don't generally think of musicians as being at risk for hearing loss," said audiologist Dr Ross Tonini.

"Generally, it's assumed that rock and rollers are at greater risk for hearing loss, but it's actually classical musicians that have higher rates of noise-induced hearing loss."

Occupational health and safety in Australia defines safe listening levels in the workplace as not surpassing an average of 85 decibels (dB) over 8 hours, with a peak of no higher than 140 dB2. However, a symphony orchestra can routinely reach volumes in excess of 100 dB, with percussion musicians exposed to peak levels of 135 dB3

Addressing hearing risks for classical musicians 

"The thing that destroys our hearing is prolonged exposure to loud sound," said Dr Tonini. "As musicians, if we can separate our loud, bring-down-the-house music and intersperse it with softer music in rehearsals, we can give our ears a rest."

He stated that more effort needed to go into raising awareness about hearing loss and classical music in schools, as well as musicians themselves being aware of the risk. 

"Noise induced hearing loss from music is something that is completely preventable. No musician wants to lose their ability to make music because they have lost the ability to hear the music," he added.

Classical musicians are advised to make use of specially designed ear plugs that filter sound to a safer level for their ears, without compromising their ability to hear their instrument.

If you or someone you know is a classical musician, regular hearing checks can help to understand the state of your hearing, as well as address any issues early. You can book your FREE* hearing test with Adelaide Digital Hearing by clicking here, or alternately you can call us on 1800 940 982.

1 Baylor College of Medicine, Hearing loss in musicians, not just rock and rollers. Accessed July, 2017
2SafeWork NSW, Noise at work. Accessed July, 2017
3National Center for Biotechnology Information, Evaluation of the noise exposure of symphonic orchestra musicians. Accessed July, 2017

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